Economy and Employment

Survey: More than 100,000 Iowans will retire in next five years

Openings will be in health care, sales and other fields

Joey Welton (left), journeyman lineman, prepares to drill a hole in a utility pole as it is held by Galen Abitz, journey
Joey Welton (left), journeyman lineman, prepares to drill a hole in a utility pole as it is held by Galen Abitz, journeyman lineman, and Gary Henry, foreman, as they work along Seventh Avenue in Marion on Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2016. Henry has worked for Alliant Energy for 25 years, Welton for 24 years, and Abitz for 6 years. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — More than 100,000 workers will retire in Iowa over the next five years, leaving the state to beg even more for workers, according to a recently released survey.

According to a survey of the Iowa Business Council, an organization of larger Iowa employers, and released at the Home Base Iowa Partner Summit at Camp Dodge, in Johnston, on April 7, Iowa has some 35,000 job vacancies and more than 72,000 workers over age 64.

The companies said they plan to add 5,000 new jobs, and will have an additional 26,566 workers eligible to retire in the next five years.

Home Base Iowa is a not-for-profit, private-public partnership that recruits veterans and helps transition them into careers in Iowa.

“We’ve got about 30 percent of our overall staff that are eligible for retirement,” said Justin Foss, spokesman for Alliant Energy, an Iowa Business Council member.

Foss said the utility company, headquartered in Madison, Wis., has approximately 4,200 employees across the nation. The most retirement-prone area is the natural and electric line workers who — at 1,900 workers — encompass almost half of the company’s total employment.

“We have seen this for a while, and have been addressing this for both us and the electric industry,” Foss said. “We have been seeing improvement and trying to get more and more equal distribution for our workforce across age groups.”

Alliant has increased its number of apprenticeships to try to offset those retirements. Foss said the company has grown its number of apprentices from about 140 in 2013 to270 last year, though he couldn’t say how many went on to take jobs with the utility.

“We’ve been recruiting more and more in high schools (and) trade schools, and trying to get younger people to join our workforce,” Foss said.

Katie Lippold, Iowa Workforce Development’s labor market research economist, said the number of retirees in Iowa is could be around 150,000 over the past decade.

The report went on to show that, according to the Iowa Business Council and other companies, the largest vacancies will be in the health care, technical, service, sales, administrative support, transportation, material moving and production fields.

“The real beautiful part of this is, we know where the jobs are going to be for young people, and what fields they are needed in.” said Mary O’Keefe, retired senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Principal Financial.

Home Base Iowa

One source of new workers could be veterans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Iowa already has 131,000 vets in the workforce, and only 1.9 percent of them are unemployed — one of the lowest percentages in the country.

But nationwide, more than 200,000 people — more than half of whom are married — leave military service each year and 83 percent have transferrable skills, the report said. Moreover, 80 percent of these vets said they would relocate for a good job.

Just from numbers reported by the Iowa Business Council member companies, there have been more than 2,000 veterans hired by members of the council since Home Base Iowa’s start in 2014. Tina Hoffman, the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s marketing and communications director, believes that is going to climb as more than 1,200 HBI member businesses have pledged to hire “thousands of veterans over the next five years.”

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